Asked if the Vols have enough depth to keep fresh blockers in the game at all times, offensive line coach Greg Adkins replied: "We've got the starting five, then Jacques (McClendon and Vlad (Richard)."
Starting tackles Eric Young and Ramon Foster played most of Tennessee's 67 snaps in last Saturday's loss at Florida. So did starting center Josh McNeil. Starting guards Chris Scott and Anthony Parker got a little rest as backups McClendon and Richard saw some action at The Swamp. Both second-teamers performed well, Adkins said, especially as pass protectors.
"They've had opportunities to play in the past couple of ball games, and they did a good job," the Vol aide noted. "Really, when they were in the other day we probably threw the ball 12 of those 18 plays. I was happy with what they got done."
McClendon, a former Parade All-American, is a super-strong 6-3, 330-pounder who has not yet lived up to his press clippings. Richard is the Vols' most athletic offensive lineman, according to head coach Phillip Fulmer, but is still learning the nuances of Tennessee's blocking schemes after switching over from defensive tackle in 2006.
"Vlad has really worked hard," Adkins said. "It's always good to see the development of a player. He's got a great attitude and practices hard every day. He's a fun guy to coach…. He is still progressing, and that's the great thing about it. I think he can go a long way."
The Vols' next-most reliable reserve is probably senior Michael Frogg, a former walk-on. Like McClendon and Richard, however, he is best suited to guard. Because of the logjam at that position, Frogg gets most of his snaps in relief of McNeil at center.
"Michael has got plenty of experience playing," Adkins noted.
Senior Steven Jones is relegated mostly to mop-up duty, so the Vols would love for redshirt freshmen Ramone Johnson (6-5, 310) and Darius Myers (6-6, 315) to emerge as dependable reserves at tackle. Both are intriguing prospects who have not yet scratched their potential.
"Steve Jones has played sparingly," Adkins conceded, "and we're still trying to bring Darius Myers along.
Myers is not listed on the depth chart for Saturday's game with Arkansas State but he might see action anyway.
"Darius is a guy I was going to try to get in at the end of the Southern Miss game," Adkins said. "He was sick all last week and wasn't available to us for the Florida game. He's a guy we need to continue to progress as the season goes along. Somewhere down the line we might need him this year."